Saying Goodbye to My Friend and Hero

by Todd Walker

The reality of life is that death follows. From our first breath, and with each successive stream of air we inhale, we’re one step closer to the end.

Day9

 

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For the last three weeks, our family, drenched in emotions, watched Dirt Road Girl’s father die. Tuesday morning we lost a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. The Greatest Generation lost another patriot and hero. I lost a wise and faithful friend.

Dealing with death is hard. You’re never ready even if you know the great unknown is certain.

Our modern world of convenience insulates us from caring for our dead. The funeral business has replaced what was once the family’s responsibility with all-inclusive services. We’ve been shielded from the details of death and all that goes with caring for the body of our deceased. We’re conditioned to let the professionals handle this final chapter of life and our mortal bodies.

There’s no fault in choosing this option. It’s become automatic to turn this task over to others in our culture. Tending to my dying friend changed my perspective.

At 10 o’clock on his last evening on earth,  I administered what was to be his last dose of medicine that the caring hospice nurse had stored in the kitchen refrigerator’s vegetable drawer. It sat next to a partial head of lettuce. The love of his life rubbed his arm, kissed him goodnight, and shuffled down the hall to her bedroom. He punched the TV remote to surf between Monday Night Football and his beloved Braves ’til 11.

When the channel landed and stayed on an old movie, I knew he was sleeping. He woke up when I removed the remote from his hand.

“You ready to go to sleep?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

The living room sofa is really too short for sleeping. I laid there anyway, set my alarm for two-hour intervals, and listened to his labored breathing a few feet down the hall. I feel in and out of sleep and dreams. The alarm was unnecessary.

Before the sun could rise, the silence in his room startled me. He couldn’t be gone I thought. The nurse said he probably had 3 or 4 more days. Never has quietness been so mournful. Time and space disappeared suddenly.

My first hope was that he was finally sleeping soundly. I stood by his bed with my flashlight looking for rhythmic chest movements. If he was sleeping, I didn’t want to wake him. His skin was warm. Eyes shut. His hands crossed his abdomen.

I’ve never had to determine if someone was gone. I checked his breathing and pulse. Nothing.

After 91 years, he departed on his own terms – in his house, with his family. Not in a hospital bed. No amount of caring hospital staff can match the care of his family.

I made calls to family members.

Brooke, our hospice nurse, arrived mid morning to make the official pronouncement and met with our family. Paperwork had to be done to satisfy our human systems.

DRG asked me if would help our nurse if she needed assistance preparing her daddy’s body. A task she nor her brother were emotionally able to do.

“I want to,” rushed from my mouth.

Taking our time, Brooke and I gently and lovingly rolled his body back  and forth removing bandages and wiping his body clean. The coldness of his body was absorbed by my loving hands. The strangeness of touching and caring for his body added closure and filled me with emotions out of my realm of expression.

The time was interrupted by moments where emotions breached my levee. Brooke compassionately reassured me that I would cherish this time. She was right.

I kept remembering his hands gripping his golf club sending a dimpled ball straight down the fairway – while his grandson and I tried to stay out of the woods with our shots. And how his once strapping young body flew missions on a B-24 in the second World War – earning him two Purple Hearts. And how he only loved one woman his entire life. And the independent children he raised, one of which became the love of my life. Gratitude, honor, sorrow, peace, loss, and joy spilled from my eyes and soul.

I went to his closet and picked out a green golf shirt. Green for his journey to new life which he’d already taken. Brooke helped me gently slip it over his head and arms. His face was full of peace.

It was a sobering honor to have known you, to care for your body, and show you the fullness of our devotion.

One cannot always be a hero, but one can always be a man.

~ Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

You were both, my dear friend!

Todd

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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to My Friend and Hero

  1. What a beautiful tribute, Todd!

  2. Thank you for sharing that heartwarming story.
    May you and DRG hearts be filled with peace.

  3. Echo

    beautiful…… you surely honored your friend and father in law.

    so very sorry for the families loss of someone who was dearly loved. tho his physical presence is gone, know that his spirit, love, guidance and teachings will always live on in future generations.

  4. Sincerely sorry for your loss Todd. I have been there too many times myself.
    Regards, Keith.

  5. RoyG

    God bless you and our family in your time of lose.. the good lord has called home a fine gentlemen and your lose is only temporary as we will see our beloved one’s once again but not of this world

  6. susan

    The truth, and love, lives on in your amazing statement of his life… and passing. God Bless you ALL and know with all your heart what Echo wrote is true…from now on you are never alone.
    My prayers always – Susan

  7. MI Patriot

    So sorry for DRG and your loss. Know that your lives have been enriched by her father and your father-in-law.

    Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

    Chris J
    aka MI Patriot

  8. Dear Todd,

    I am sorry for your loss. He and your whole family are in my prayers and masses and in my prayer intention box for continuos prayer. God Bless you and all your family. Nick Carlucci

  9. Todd, I’m so sorry for the loss of your father-in-law. As I read your story I could feel your love for him. It’s beautiful.

  10. ruthann

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing with us.

  11. Todd, this is a very sad time. We carry our loved ones with us in our minds. They never really died until we stop thinking about them. I send you and DRG my love.

  12. You’re a good man. You, DRG, and her family will be in my prayers.

  13. Mickey

    You are a great guy and your love for your father-in-law shines through. It may be a sad time but there is joy in knowing that you did all that you could do and that he is in a better place. I will always think of that group as the “Greatest Generation”.

  14. Thank you for sharing this part of your life Todd and I am sorry for your loss.

  15. Joanne Wallace

    Truly beautiful…prayers to you and yours.
    Joanne Wallace

  16. Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful tribute to him.

  17. My sympathies for your loss Todd. My mother passed away 3 weeks ago aged 86 and I was going to write about her today so saddened to see another is also grieving the loss of a family member. To grieve means we loved, we had someone in our life who loved us in return, we are fortunate to have had them.

  18. John

    Todd, I’m sorry for your loss. What you wrote was beautiful, and I was able to identify with you.
    “Life must go on though good men die. Life must go on. I forget just why.”

  19. Thank you for sharing this tender sorrowful moment. God Bless your family.

    Laura

  20. Dick

    Sorry for your loss of a loved one. May God bless and be with you and the family during this time. You will be in my prayers.

  21. DRG and I want to thank each of you for your encouraging words, thoughts, love, and prayers. It means more than you know!

  22. rcasuso@aol.com

    My condolences to you and DRG my friends

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